You Picked It! – Joni Mitchell – “Blue” – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And this one was probably the closest one yet. It wasn’t until Uncle Meat Cast his vote that we had a winner as I was sitting with a three way tie at first . The one you picked was Joni Mitchell’s album “Blue” which I had never heard before. The votes were as follows:

  1. Joni Mitchell – ‘Blue’ – 6 votes
  2. Ozzy Ozbourne – “Bark at the Moon’ – 5 votes
  3. Phil Collins – “Face Value’ – 5 votes
  4. Outkast – ‘Stankonia’ – 4 votes
  5. Durbin – ‘The Beast Awakens’ – 4 Votes

Thanks to all for participating. The April choices will be up on Saturday!

Joni Mitchell – ‘Blue’ (1971):

You people are not making my life easy by picking some of the most famous albums of all time for me to review. It puts so much pressure on me for two reasons. One, if it is one of the greatest albums of all time, will I like it and if not, look like a fool for no. Two, with it being one of the greatest albums of all time, will my write-up do it any justice. Can it live up to those standards. I know it is my fault because I have been putting them on the list and I do enjoy stretching outside the box to do the best I can on these reviews. But it is exhausting at the same time. Enough complaining, on to the review.

Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ was her first album after she decided to take a break from recording and music. It is her fourth album overall. Joni’s break saw her travel Europe for vacation in early 1970. This trip helped refresh her mind and refocus herself and what came out of it was an album that is considered a masterpiece. The trip saw her write several songs that appeared on the album, but it also brought out an artist that was ready to fully expose herself and lay everything out on the line. She bares her soul in her music, in her art, and you are able to dive in to the depths of who she is with this album. ‘Blue” was released on June 22, 1971 and although it went only to #15 on the US charts, it has turned in to one of the greatest albums of all time.

I have said in the past that an artist should never produce their own albums. Well, Joni did and I could never be more wrong about that statement. Joni had a vision, and she painted a portrait with such vivid colors and rich textures that envelops you and wraps its arms around you and makes you feel all warm inside and puts you in a safe place to confess to the world your deepest feelings.

The album opens with “All I Want” and I love the minimalistic approach with the use of what sounds like an acoustic guitar but I think it is an Appalachian dulcimer. I think it is both because James Taylor is credited with the guitar on this one. The song references her relationship with James Taylor and how much she loves him despite a difficult time they were having as James was doing heroin at the time. Sadly they broke up after the album for various reasons that aren’t important here. Joni’s vocals are both haunting and angelic in both tone and delivery. She is letting all her feelings flow out and she doesn’t hold back. It sounds so personal and heartfelt. It is wonderful.

Now Joni was the Taylor Swift of her time as she writes a lot about her relationships (okay, I guess Taylor is the Joni of her time). This one is believed to be about her love when she went on her European vacation, Graham Nash. “My Old Man” is a beautiful piano piece with only her voice and the piano which she plays. It feels like she is professing her love for him and that they don’t need a paper from City Hall to say they are married because in her heart, they were. Until he broke up with her through a telegram while she was in Europe. Now that would’ve been a text message (or maybe a Tik Tok video, who knows).

The saddest song on the album is “Little Green” which was written back in 1966 right after she signed the papers to give her new born daughter up for adoption due to her being poor and a trouble folk singer. You can hear the sadness in her soul, the regret that she will miss out on so much. I can’t imagine the pain she must have felt, well I guess I can because she laid it out in the song.

One of the songs she wrote while in Europe is “Carey”. It is about a young American, named Carey, that she met and had a lot of fun with traveling through Greek. Good for her. You have Stephen Stills on bass and guitar and Russ Kunkel on guitar as well. It is fun, upbeat song and is so playful and full of joy and you can tell she was coming from a good place with this one.

Then back to the sadness with another piano ballad called “Blue”. This one is believed to be about Taylor as well and his heroin addiction as to the many references in the song. When you put her voice and piano together, expect the waterworks because she sings with such passion and the sadness just pours out. Heartwrenching.

We are not back to her European romance with Carey. We get “California” which she wrote while in Paris after leaving Greece and Carey behind. This actually feels like California as it is light, sunny and feels like you are walking through the California sunshine on the beach. This has both James Taylor and Russ Kunkel on guitar and also Sneaky Pete Klienow on a pedal steel guitar.

“This Flight Tonight” sees Sneaky Pete back on guitar and Joni visiting her relationship with James Taylor yet again. This time it seems to be about a story when she visited him on the set of a movie he was filming. It is an upbeat guitar driven track and talks about her regret for having to get on a flight and leave him behind. This was when the relationship was new and fresh and you get that feeling through the music as there is a freshness emitting from the guitars.

Then back to a piano driven track and is my favorite on the album. It is “River” and it is thought to be about her breakup with Graham Nash. The song takes place during Christmas so people tend to treat as a Christmas song and in fact, Matt Nathanson covered this recently on his first ever Christmas album. Vocally, I think Joni was at her absolute best with this one as her vocals are tender at times and then soar through the skies like Santa in his sleigh. It does make it feel like a Christmas tune, but its story is full of heartache and sadness. And actually, that is a wonderful combination.

Next up is “A Case of You” and this one is said to be about her relationship with either Graham Nash or Leonard Cohen…damn…this girl got around!! You go girl!! The more relationships, the more breakups, the better the songs I guess. Are we sure her soul didn’t split in two and end up in Taylor?? Enquiring minds want to know. You have James and Russ back on guitar and Joni playing that Appalachian Dulcimer thingy again. The song is another downer, but beautiful acoustic performance.

The album ends with “The Last Time I Saw Richard” which is about her first husband, Chuck Mitchell. Another piano song and not as sad, but more nostalgic and some sweet memories and then emotion comes through nicely in both tempo, tone and sonics. Alright, let’s count the ways here…we have Graham Nash, James Taylor, Leonard Cohen, Chuck Mitchell and this guy Carey from Europe. I don’t think I am missing any one. In the end, it doesn’t matter as it gave us some amazing songs and performances.

Joni Mitchell spilled her guts with this album, baring her soul through the music and through her poetic words. Words that swim around in your heart and make you feel everything she went through (or was going through) at the time. She had a way with this words, with the flow and her vocal range danced throughout the album interpreting each bit of happiness and ached with each bit of sorrow and took you on a wonderful journey of love and loss. I can see why the critics have been so enamored with this album as it has a way of giving you the feels. Which only the best albums can do. Thanks again for picking this one as I am so glad I have now had the experience of Joni Mitchell. I will give this album a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars!

See you on Saturday when the next set of song choices are available for your vote!

26 thoughts on “You Picked It! – Joni Mitchell – “Blue” – Album Review

  1. Nice write up, John. Really quite a daunting album when you consider the layers of emotion and suchlike. I had a copy on vinyl, but I moved it along as I just couldn’t really see myself pulling it from the shelf that often. Really great album, though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, not one I would pull out on a regular basis, but I am so glad I now know it and I really enjoyed it. These You Pick Its have really stretched me with some of the ones that have one. It has been a lot of fun doing these.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad this album won, because it was high time you listened to a Joni Mitchell album John! While I was already a teen when Mitchell arrived on the music scene, I think I was too young to fully appreciate her music until she released her biggest hit single “Help Me” in early 1974 (when I was 19). I loved it, along with her follow up hit “Free Man in Paris”, and became a fan. The only album of hers I own is the beautiful “Hejira”, which she released in 1976.

    She was – and still remains – one of the greatest songwriters ever, with an unusual and distinctive vocal style that both broke new ground and sounded unlike anyone else ever before or since. Nice review John.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh dear, I lost. I cannot get on with Joni. I know everyone raves about it. 1537 even sent me an LP of it. I dunno, it just doesn’t hit me. Bad Canadian! BAD CANADIAN! Glad you dig it, though, a 5/5 is pure praise.

    Liked by 1 person

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